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#373894 - 26/08/2022 19:46 Handling many computers?
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12305
Loc: Sterling, VA
I have a client who has asked me for a solution to something and I can't quite figure out a good solution.

He has one large desktop computer that's his main personal system. Then he has 4 additional laptops, each one from a different commercial or governmental entity that he does freelance work for. As you may imagine, this is a little unwieldy. He currently has two monitors but uses each laptop one (or two) at a time, using their built-in screen only, set up to one side or another on his desk. He's tasked me to come up with a solution that simplifies his setup, preferably using his monitors, keyboard, and mouse in some unified way.

Naturally, the tried and true way is to use a KVM. But that usually only allows for one device to be used at a time. I think he's looking to use at least two at a time, and would be ok with a third being used in the same way he does now.

The only solution I've come up with is to get something like this big ol Dell monitor, connect the desktop with HDMI (the desktop will always be connected), plug the keyboard and mouse into the monitor, and then have a USB C cable that can be plugged into whichever laptop he needs to work on. He could just stack up the laptops and use one at a time.

Does this sound like a decent solution? It seems...ok. First of all, I'm not certain whether the power/sleep state of the connected USB device can be altered without opening the laptop up, which kind of defeats the purpose.

I don't know, I'm just hoping someone has an idea I haven't thought of yet laugh
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Matt

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#373895 - 26/08/2022 20:51 Re: Handling many computers? [Re: Dignan]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31474
Loc: Seattle, WA
I do this every day. My solution is to simply Remote Desktop into the other computers. If all the computers are plugged into the same wired ethernet subnet, the performance of Remote Desktop is quite snappy these days. Even wifi isn't bad, but I start to feel a bit of lag on wifi, so I prefer wired. I wouldn't play games or do video/audio editing that way, but for basic office work, wired RDP is totally acceptable.

There are advantages to doing it this way:
- Your "main" operating system can be anything you want (mac, Linux, Windows) and it can be your personal machine if you like.
- You can arrange the remote desktops however you want on your main system. They can be run fullscreen or in a window (any size window you like) and can be closed/opened and moved around at will.
- You can copy and paste text, and FILES, to and from the remote desktops! This is massively useful!
- If you configure the other laptops power management features, so that the "Lid Close Action" is set to "Do Nothing", then you can just leave the other computers in a stack, off to the side, lids closed and running. Power them on or off as needed, lids can stay closed. Do whatever you need for ventilation for them.

I have two LCD monitors, and to the left of the monitors, is my stack of laptops, with my main laptop (macbook) on the top of the stack. I have the macbook lid open, and the other laptop lids are closed, underneath the macbook. So I have three screens total, and I can choose to RDP into the other laptops at any time and move their windows around on any of the three screens.

On the rare occasion that I need to access one of the other laptops directly, rather than through RDP (example: Changing a BIOS setting), then I can just move the mac aside and open the lid of the other laptop and go for it. I also have an additional fancy setup which is totally optional which I rarely use, it's basically a poor man's KVM: The other laptops are plugged into USB docks with HDMI outputs, and those outputs can be temporarily routed to my LCD monitors. And since my monitors have two inputs (each monitor has a DVI and an HDMI input), the extra laptop which I would be most likely to use with those monitors, already has its outputs plugged into DVI cable adapters and they're going into the DVI inputs on my monitors. So on the rare occasion that I want that extra laptop to be multimonitor direct-connnect, I don't even have to futz with cables, I just press the input-select button on the monitors.

The only possible wrinkle is that maybe some of his extra machines might have some kind of lockdown preventing RDP connections. However, if he has full keyboard access to the machines (an administrator login) then he should be able to make the necessary configuration changes to allow RDP access. Maybe some hoops to jump through, there.
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Tony Fabris

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#373896 - 26/08/2022 20:53 Re: Handling many computers? [Re: Dignan]
Attack
addict

Registered: 01/03/2002
Posts: 596
Loc: Florida
You should look up Multi Client Monitors. This LG has 4 inputs. I know Dell also has a 43" that also has 4 inputs.
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Chad

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#373897 - 26/08/2022 21:37 Re: Handling many computers? [Re: Dignan]
peter
carpal tunnel

Registered: 13/07/2000
Posts: 4161
Loc: Cambridge, England
Something in the barrier or synergy or Win2VNC sort of area maybe? I use x2x for this all the time, but that only works if all the computers are Linux, or at least X Windows.

Peter

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#373898 - 27/08/2022 00:53 Re: Handling many computers? [Re: tfabris]
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12305
Loc: Sterling, VA
Originally Posted By: tfabris
The only possible wrinkle is that maybe some of his extra machines might have some kind of lockdown preventing RDP connections.

I read your whole post with this in the back of my head but you beat me to it laugh

I suspect this might be the case, but I'm not positive. I like the suggestion, though. Any time I'm setting up a new computer for a client at my house, I do it this way too, so I can use my own monitor and keyboard/mouse.

I'll have to give this one some serious thought. Though I suspect they might be pretty locked down, given that two of them are from governmental entities and one is from a major corporation. The fourth laptop is just his personal one.
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Matt

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#373899 - 27/08/2022 00:57 Re: Handling many computers? [Re: Attack]
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12305
Loc: Sterling, VA
Originally Posted By: Attack
You should look up Multi Client Monitors. This LG has 4 inputs. I know Dell also has a 43" that also has 4 inputs.

Thanks! I'll look at that too. Looks pretty nice. It's so weird how these companies bury the info on what ports the device has. That one doesn't list them at all in the specs. It says "HDMI: Yes" laugh The Dell page kind of doesn't list them either (there's a graphic that has it). I wonder what's up with that.
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Matt

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#373900 - 27/08/2022 01:02 Re: Handling many computers? [Re: peter]
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12305
Loc: Sterling, VA
Originally Posted By: peter
Something in the barrier or synergy or Win2VNC sort of area maybe? I use x2x for this all the time, but that only works if all the computers are Linux, or at least X Windows.

Peter

Oooo for some reason it took me a second to grasp what Synergy was doing, but that is extremely cool. I think his goal is to have fewer devices open on his desk, since at the moment he can only really open two of the four laptops on his actual desktop. But this is a neat solution that I'll hold in my brain for a future problem to solve with it. Thanks!
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Matt

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#373901 - 27/08/2022 02:02 Re: Handling many computers? [Re: Dignan]
Attack
addict

Registered: 01/03/2002
Posts: 596
Loc: Florida
Originally Posted By: Dignan
Thanks! I'll look at that too. Looks pretty nice. It's so weird how these companies bury the info on what ports the device has. That one doesn't list them at all in the specs. It says "HDMI: Yes" laugh The Dell page kind of doesn't list them either (there's a graphic that has it). I wonder what's up with that.


Looking at the LG inputs for HDMI I see "Yes x4 (ver 1.4 x2, ver 2.0 x2)" and if I'm reading that correctly. Then it has 4 HDMI inputs 2 are 1.4 ports and 2 are 2.0 ports.
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Chad

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